August 5, 2010

Tales by Triplett – A Friendly Game of Scrabble

Triplett,PatrickBy Patrick Triplett

With nothing going on after dinner one evening I decided to ask my wife to join me in a game of Scrabble. She didn’t seem too excited about the idea.

“No way. You beat me every time. You take it too seriously. That’s why I stopped wanting to play. Remember?”

I sensed she needed to be coaxed. “I don’t beat you every time. Just most of the time. And that’s because you don’t have what it takes to win.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“Just that you don’t have that competitive edge. You’re smart. You know how to spell. You just need to concentrate more.”

“I think I’ll pass,” she said.

“What if we say – sweeten the pot to make it more interesting?” I replied.

“This doesn’t involve fooling around, does it?”

“No. Actually I was thinking it’s been a long time since we’ve visited your parents.”

“That’s because you hate my parents.”

“True. Suppose if you beat me I agree to go visit them with you this weekend?”

“And if you win?”

“Then I get to go golfing with my buddies in Florida.”

“You mean drinking with your buddies in Florida and then coming up with a case of the flu on Monday?”


She thought about it for a moment. Then I threw in the clincher.

“You know, on second thought that’s really unfair of me. The chances of spending the weekend with your parents vs. golfing with my buddies are pretty slim based on your scrabble track record. Maybe we should just forget it and watch a movie.”

“Go get the game,” she said, glaring at me. It worked. I would on my way to Florida as soon as I finished teaching my wife another lesson in Scrabble 101.

I brought the game downstairs and set it on the dining room table. We had opened a bottle of wine during dinner, and she was well into it, having poured her glass full.

The table was too cluttered for me to set up the board. “We’re going to need some more space,” I said. With one fell swoop she took her arm and pushed everything off the table onto the floor. “I guess that’s one way to do it,” I said.

We each took our seven letters and drew to see who went first. It was her. So it was up to me to keep score – house rules.

She made the word TABLET, worth 16 points. All I could do was make TOLL for a measly four points.

Then she pounced on me by making LAZY – putting the Z on a triple letter score for a total of 36 points. She stared at me with a wry smile as she chugged the rest of her wine and poured another glass.

No need to panic, I thought. It’s early. My letters sucked. I tried to make a word using her Z but couldn’t. I had to settle for YEAR – a double word score worth a modest 16 points. I grabbed three more letters. They sucked, too.

Then my wife made AJAR on a double word score for 22 more points.

“You seem to be getting all the good letters so far,” I said.

“Are you gonna talk or are you gonna play?” she replied, sounding cocky.

I reached for the bottle of wine and filled my glass, frantically searching through my letters for a decent word. Then it hit me – SHUTUP. I had all the letters to make it off of her T. Double word – 22 points.

“Shut up is two words,” she said.

“It can be used as one word,” I replied defensively. “What about SHUTDOWN and SHUTOUT. Those are one word. So is SHUTUP.

“No, it’s not. Go get the dictionary.”

“We don’t need a dictionary. This is a just a friendly game. There’s no need to…”

“Get the dictionary.”

“All right. You want to play hard ball?” I said, as I went over to the book shelf and looked up the word.”

“Not there, is it,” she said smugly.

“Fine. You win. I’ll think up a better word,” I said as I gulped down my drink and poured another.

As the game went on my wife continued to get all the good letters. She even got the X and put it on a triple letter score. She was killing me. The only good letter left was the Q. I needed it – bad.

With only a few letters remaining, I was down 52 points. I had an A, a C, a K and a blank. I spotted my only chance to win. If I could just get that Q I could make QUACKS off her S on a triple word score – worth 60 points.

There were three letters left. Either she had the Q or it was still out there. I made a word using three letters, keeping my QUACKS intact and praying that one of the three letters left was a Q.

I picked them up one a time. An L, then a R. It was down to one letter. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead as I turned over the last letter. It was the Q. Thank God.

It was my wife’s turn. She only had three letters left. As she scanned the board I became more nervous. She couldn’t possibly ruin my triple word, could she? She was looking right at it. No, don’t do it. Please, God, don’t let her do it.

I tried distracting her. “You’re 55 points ahead of me. Just turn in your letters,” I said, pretending to raise the white flag of defeat.

“Make that 59 points,” she said as she placed her remaining letters down on a different spot. “I think I’ll go phone my parents and tell them the good news. I hear Montana is pretty this time of year with the snow and all.”

“Well, that may be,” I said, trying to contain myself. “But it’s not as pretty as Florida.” I put down my letters and added up the score. “Ha, looks like I beat you by one point. Read it and weep.” I jumped up out of my chair, pumping my fists in the air.

My wife sat there, calmly finishing her drink, before saying, “I believe you still have two letters left.”

Oh my God, I hadn’t thought of that. The stupid L and R. Don’t panic, I thought to myself. You’ll figure out something.

I sat there and looked the board over. Nothing was coming to me. After 15 minutes or so my wife said, “Should I call my parents now?”

“Just hold on. The game’s not over yet. There’s no time limit in Scrabble.”

I continued to sit there and look at the board. Finally after an hour my wife got up. “Well, good luck. I’m going to go read. Be sure and tell me if you find someplace to put your letters.”

“I know where I’d like to put them right now,” I said.

Another hour passed. I refused to give up. But it was nearing midnight and I had to go to work the next morning. My wife had fallen asleep in the chair – with that smirk still on her face.

Unable to think clearly, I finally headed for bed. I set my alarm early. Maybe something will come to me when I look at the board tomorrow, I thought. After all, there’s no time limit in Scrabble.

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